Sunday, April 27, 2008
It's been over a month since I last posted and my friends are beginning to wonder what I've been eating since there is no trace of activity in my "yellow kitchen"-- no crumbs, no dirty dishes, no recipes, no nothing. As it so happens, life took over, and I've fallen into a new job, launched an e-newsletter, and, well, the trees are in bloom in New York and this dreamer has been gazing out the window, riding her bike, smelling the magnolias and being very caught up in the moment of spring in the city. Forgive me: I'm back now.
Along with the cherry trees and those precious little green leaves (so delicate and new to the world!), yesterday morning I walked up to the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket and there they were: the asparagus have finally arrived! As I waited in line at Maxwell Farmstand with a small collection of coveted vegetables, the man behind me waxed poetic to the purple-headed stalks of asparagus he was holding before him like a bouquet. A week ago we had welcomed this very farm stand back for the season, two weeks before that I'd celebrated the return of kale, and before that it was still gray all the time and it seemed like we'd be living on apples forever. Just in the knick of time, the season has begun.
At the Greenmarket information stand a farmer was ladling out samples of sprouts doused in a dressing of tahini, miso, and soy sauce. A flock of marketers gathered in close to taste and inquire about protein content in sprouts, and how to make this coleslaw-like concoction in their own kitchens. When someone asked where to buy the sprouts she got a pamphlet in response with directions on how to grow a flat of them in her very own apartment. Vist for more info on growing your own sprouts.
Over the last month while I've been out of touch I embarked on some quiet but significant culinary adventures: I invented (more or less) a recipe for grapefruit sorbet, I cooked clams for the first time (the clam sauce was not of note, but the clams themselves were generous in texture and flavor and I will certainly try, try again), and I happened upon an Argentine barbeque. The barbeque offered no less than six courses of meat starting with chorizo sausages enveloped in crusty French bread buns, then on to sweat breads, blood sausage, short ribs, and strip steak...two courses of strip steak. Even I had to give in and do my share of tasting.
Which brings me to vegetarianism. For a while I was trying to hide the vegetarian factor on this blog, even though I haven't been eating meat since I went on a trip to China in the January of 2004. I grew up eating meat, and I still eat seafood, but my reasoning behind giving it up has been that I don't want to eat beef that has been processed, pumped full of hormones, probably moved by fork lifts, and slaughtered by unfairly treated laborers. So, I don't eat meat, and I don't miss it, but then last fall when I really got interested in writing about food I realized there is a time and a place to break every rule, and when the opportunity presents itself, I dig in to make sure I don't miss out. In a similar way my commitment to eating locally grown food (at least as much as possible) started out with the fact that I had no idea where the wilted lettuce at the grocery store was coming from. I've always loved to shop at the Greenmarkets in New York (and before that the farmers markets in my college town or in Ann Arbor where my parents live) because the scene is so friendly, and nothing really gets me going like piles of beets, carrots, fresh peaches, and buckets of blossoms, flats of perennials and herbs. Plus the food tastes better. But then this winter I read Plenty, a book by two Canadian journalists who took a year to document their conversion to a 100-mile diet. Much of the story is that of anticipating the arrival of the first greens, the trials of figuring out how to can properly, and the quest to find local wheat berries. There are marvelous seasonal recipes between the chapters, but there is a whole other factor that I'd never thought about when trumping the local market: eating locally helps reduce our carbon footprint. When food doesn't have to travel as far between the farm and your plate we are actively choosing to "Take a Bite out of Climate Change." Anna Lappé has just launched a site which addresses this specifically: . I encourage you all to explore the position papers, visit the carbon diet calculator, and read up on the advisers to her revolutionary project.
If you're in the New York City area you can sign up for my weekly e-newsletter Local Gourmands by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Each Monday I send out a list of events that are taking place in the city ranging from Anne Saxelby's cheese tasting tours, to farm festivals, to Slow Food gatherings, book readings, and urban agriculture events. If you're not in the city but caught by the energy of this local food revolution you can join the Facebook group What I Ate for Supper Last Night and share your own stories from the kitchen. While the food crisis manifests in riots, bread lines, and rice rations, there is no time like now to encourage the conversation about what's for dinner, where it came from, and really examining who you're voting for when you're voting with your fork.